Take Up Your Cross
Mark 8:34-35 (NIV) Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."
Bible Knowledge Commentary: "When the Roman Empire crucified a criminal or captive, the victim was often forced to carry his cross part of the way to the crucifixion site, carrying his cross through the heart of the city."Luke 9:23-24 (NIV) Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."
NIV Study Notes: "The picture is of a man, already condemned, required to carry the beam of his own cross to the place of execution. Disciples from Galilee knew what this meant, for hundreds of men had been executed by this means in their region."Mat 10:38 (NIV) ... anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Are We Really Following Christ?
The modern equivalent would be to walk down a hallway toward an electric chair. Death is the destiny, and we are in a grim death processional. At least we are not first and, hopefully, we are not alone. If we "deny ourselves," and commit ourselves to death, we can no longer place any hope in this world. By "taking up our cross", it is as if all our natural passions and desires are doomed.Luke 14:25-33 (Phi) "If anyone comes to me without 'hating' his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine. The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple. If any of you wanted to build a tower, wouldn't he first sit down and work out the cost of it, to see if he can afford to finish it? Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and found himself unable to complete the building, everyone who sees it will begin to jeer at him, saying, 'This is the man who started to build a tower but couldn't finish it!'... So it is with you; only the man who says good-bye to his possessions can be my disciple."
A.W. Tozer: "Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying."
The Death Sentence
Gal 5:24 (Jer) You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.
Gal 5:24 (TEB) And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature, with all its passions and desires.
1 Pet 2:24a (Phi) And he personally bore our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good.
Consider Yourself Dead
T. Austin-Sparks: "We have not to die; we are dead. What we have to do is to accept our death... [In] baptism... we simply step in there and say, 'That position which God has settled with reference to me is the one which I now accept, and I testify here in this way to the fact that I have accepted God's position for me, namely, that in the Cross I have been brought to an end.'"Col 3:3-7 (Phi) For, as far as this world is concerned, you are already dead, and your true life is a hidden one in God, through Christ. One day, Christ who is your life, will show himself openly, and you will all share in that magnificent revelation. Consider yourselves dead to worldly contacts: have nothing to do with sexual immorality, dirty mindedness, uncontrolled passion, evil desire, and the lusts for other people's goods, which amounts to idolatry. It is because of these very things that the holy anger of God falls upon those who refuse to obey him. And never forget that you had your part in those dreadful things when you lived that old life.
Rom 6:11a (KJV) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead...
Rom 6:11a (TEB) Think of yourselves as dead to sin.
Rom 6:11 (NIV) In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Rom 6:11-14 (Phi) In the same way, look upon yourselves as dead to the appeal and power of sin but alive to God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Do not, then, allow sin to establish any power over your mortal bodies in making you give way to its lusts. Nor hand over your bodily parts to be, as it were, weapons of evil for the devil's purpose. But, like men rescued from certain death, put yourselves in God's hands as weapons of good for his own purposes. For sin can never be your master; you are no longer living under the law, but under grace.
Rom 7:4-6 (Phi) So, my brothers, the death of Christ on the cross has made you "dead" to the claims of the Law, and you are free to give yourselves... to another, the one who was raised from the dead [Christ], that we may be productive for God. While we were "in the flesh", the Law stimulated our sinful passions and so worked in our nature that we became productive--for death! But now that we stand clear of the Law, the claims which existed are dissolved by our "death", and we are free to serve God, not in the old obedience to the letter of the Law, but in a new way, in the Spirit.
Rom 8:12-13 (NEB) It follows, my friends, that our lower nature has no claim upon us; we are not obligated to live on that level. If you do so, you must die. But if by the Spirit you put to death all the base pursuits of the body, then you will live.
Death To Self is NOT Optional for Christians
Jn 12:24 (NIV) "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
Rom 12:1-2 (Phi) With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remake you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed.
T. Austin-Sparks: "The unalterable basis of an open heaven is a grave, and a crisis at which you come to an end of your own self-life. It is the crisis of real experiential identification with Christ in His death."Rom 6:2-4 (Phi) We, who have died to sin--how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptized into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? We were dead and buried with him in baptism, so that just as he was raised from the dead by that splendid revelation of the Father's power, so we too might rise to life on a new plane altogether.
Gal 6:14 (Phi) Yet God forbid that I should boast about anything or anybody except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, which means that the world is dead to me and I am a dead man to the world.
Let the appeal of sin strike you like it would a corpse.Rom 6:5-7 (Phi) If we have, as it were, shared his death, we shall also share in his resurrection. Let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken, for a dead man can safely be said to be free from the power of sin.
Rom 6:8-10 (Phi) And if we were dead men with Christ we can believe that we will also be men alive with him. We can be sure that the risen Christ never dies again; death's power to master him is finished. He died, because of sin, once; he lives for God forever.
Rom 6:11 (LB) So look upon your old sin nature as dead and unresponsive to sin, and instead be alive to God, alert to him, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Life After Death
Col 2:12,14,20 (Jer) You have been buried with him, when you were baptized; and by baptism, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead... He has overridden the Law and canceled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross... If you really died with Christ to the principles of this world, why do you still let rules dictate to you, as though you were still living in the world?
2 Tim 2:11 (Phi) I rely on this saying: "If we died with him we shall also live with him."
2 Cor 5:15,17 (Phi) We look at it like this: if one died for all men, then, in a sense, they all died, and his purpose in dying for them is that their lives should now be no longer lived for themselves but for him who died and was raised to life for them... For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether; the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.
Titus 2:11 (NIV) For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
Eph 4:22-25 (TEB) So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to, the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new. You must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. No more lying, then! Everyone must tell the truth.
Gal 2:19-20 (Phi) For under the Law I "died", and I am dead to the Law's demands so that I may live for God. I died on the cross with Christ. And my present life is not that of the old "I", but the living Christ within me. The bodily life I now live I live believing in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed himself for me.
Col 3:1 (NIV) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above.
Counting The Cost, By C.S. Lewis:
"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self--all your wishes and precautions--to Christ.
"Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked--the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.'...
"When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother--at least not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain, but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie. If you gave them an inch they would take a mile.
"Now, if I may put it that way, our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take a mile. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of... or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it alright: but He will not stop there. That may be all you ask; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment. That is why He warned people to 'count the cost' before becoming Christians. 'Make no mistake,' He says, 'If you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less or other than that.'
"'Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life... whatever it cost Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect--until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.'
"The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.
"But this is the fatal mistake... The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us....
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!"